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Darius Vassell broke his Premiership scoring drought of almost a year as he scored twice against Fulham to secure a straightforward victory for in-form Aston Villa this afternoon.

Vassell has struggled to recapture his international form and has been left out of David O’Leary’s starting line-up recently. But he made the most of his opportunity year – turning home a cross from the excellent Jlloyd Samuel midway through the second half to score his first league goal since New Year’s Day. That settled a contest that Villa dominated and already led through Juan Pablo Angel’s first half-strike and there was more joy for Vassell when converted another deep Samuel cross late on.

Fulham faded worryingly after a bright start that saw Lee Hendrie scramble Alain Goma’s header off the line from a corner after just three few minutes. Thomas Sorensen then did superbly to deny Steed Malbranque from close range after Louis Saha, who looked the visitors’ most likely source of goal, had supplied the cross.

But Villa dominated the midfield and gradually they began to put Fulham under increasing pressure. Edwin van der Sar kept the away side level with an excellent stop to thwart Juan Pablo Angel from close range after Vassell’s lofted pass had put the Colombian clear of the Fulham defence. The lively forward was a constant threat and it was little surprise when he gave Villa the lead just after the half hour, poaching his sixth goal in seven games.

Young Samuel was the creator, storming down the left flank and away from the tackles of Malbranque and Moritz Volz before producing a fine cut back that gave Angel a simple finish at the back post. Fulham, perhaps fired up by Chris Coleman’s team talk, tried to hit back at the start of the second half with Saha, still linked with a move to Manchester United next month, trying an ambitious volley from long range that was straight at Sorensen.

Villa continued to look threatening in the final third and Vassell was inches away from connecting with a Gareth Barry cross as they put the visitors under a sustained period of pressure. van der Sar did well to keep out a strike from Peter Whittingham, and although Saha went close at the other end, there was an inevitability about the home side grabbing a second.

Vassell took his chance expertly to bury any doubts about his finishing ability – firing clinically beyond van der Sar after more excellent approach play from Samuel. Eight minutes later, the England international had another as Thomas Hitzlsperger sent in another dangerous cross and Vassell swept home from close range. Fulham were well beaten.

ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Sorensen, Delaney (Ridgewell 62), Mellberg, Johnsen, Samuel, Hendrie (Hitzlsperger 75), McCann, Whittingham, Barry, Angel (Moore 84), Vassell. Subs (not used): Postma, Crouch.

Goals: Angel (33), Vassell (67, 82).

FULHAM (4-3-3): Van der Sar; Volz, Harley, Knight, Goma; Inamoto (Hayles 69), Djetou, Clark; Malbranque (Sava 82), Boa Morte, Saha. Subs (not used): Melville, Crossley, Green.

REFEREE: Barry Knight (Kent).

ATTENDANCE: 35,617.